Okay, I usually blog about cupcakes and cookies, but nothing will make me geek out more than a good horror movie. And my pick is a little off the beaten path: The Descent.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good zombie flick, with Dawn of the Dead being an all-time favorite of mine, but I really don’t find zombies all that scary. When the escape plan is, “walk away at a brisk pace,” my blood doesn’t really get pumping.
The Descent is in a whole other category for me because there is no escape. There’s no running to the next abandoned farm over for help. There’s no going to the police. There’s no killing the baddie and getting away. The main characters are trapped, with two options: starve to death wandering father and farther into a labyrinth cave system or be ripped apart by sub-human cave creatures with a craving for girl-kabobs.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, The Descent follows a group of BFFs on a spelunking trip. It’s an emotional trip for our lead character, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald, who you probably don’t know from anything else), because while driving home from a previous thrill-seeking trip, her husband and young daughter died in a car accident. This is her first trip with her friend Juno (Natalie Mendoza, who you probably don’t know from anything) since the accident, who peaced out when it happened instead of being there for her friend.
As the girls are exploring what they think is a well-documented cave system, rocks fall in an unstable area and block their path back to the entrance. It’s only then that the adrenaline-junkie Juno comes clean and admits that they’re in an unexplored cave and no one knows where they are. Oh, and – spoiler alert – she also slept with Sarah’s husband. Oh, and – spoiler alert again – she is fine with leaving someone to die if it will save her own skin. Awesome friend, right?
To survive, the group has to push forward and hope that the cave has another opening. It might not, and that’s what is so damn terrifying about this movie. Of course there are cave creatures – humanoid “crawlers” who have adapted to live in the dark and who are hunting the girls as they search for a way out – but the movie is petrifying before you even get a hint of these monsters.
The creature design is fantastic. We get both male and female versions of the crawlers, and it’s extremely believable that these were some kind of prehistoric human group who evolved to be perfect adapted for a cave environment. They’re super creepy without being over-the-top.
We get some well-placed jump scares throughout the movie, but not so many that it gets obnoxious, and the ending is fantastic. If you only saw The Descent in theaters in the US, you owe it to yourself to watch the BluRay/DVD version, because the alternative jump-scare ending shown in the US isn’t nearly as scary as the original ending shown in the UK.
So if this movie is so great, why wasn’t it more popular? Two reasons. First, this is a film from Scotland without any star power behind it. Second, this movie is about being trapped underground. Right before it was released the London bombings happened and a bunch of people were actually trapped underground. It hit really close to home in an unfortunate way.
To this day, The Descent still doesn’t have a huge fan base here in the US because people confuse it with The Cave, which came out around the same time. Believe me, The Descent is far superior. It’s really not even a competition.
For the record, you don’t really need to see The Descent Part 2. The storyline is mediocre at best, and it changes the chilling non-US ending that I love so much. Plus, they completely changed the crawler design, and now they look really hokey, almost like trolls or goblins instead of something from our own prehistoric family tree. So skip it, but add the original to your “must-watch-asap” movie list.